First posted at the SureHope Counseling Blog at: https://surehopecounseling.com/2021/08/03/types-of-trauma-therapy/
According to the Sidran Institute, 70% of people will experience some sort of trauma in their lifetime. This does not include those that continue with life undiagnosed with a trauma disorder. With such a high percentage of people experiencing such distress, it is important that people have access to appropriate information regarding not only their trauma, but the type of trauma therapy that would most benefit them.
We know of evident traumas, such as experiencing sexual abuse or sexual assault, including abuse as a child, being in a serious accident, exposure to situations in and from war and combat, encountering natural disasters, and death of a child or death of a parent. These are a few of the significant events therapists refer to as Big “T” Traumas. These events are often what most people would agree leave people traumatized, and in need of professional help.
However, many people do not recognize the multiple other ways trauma has impacted their lives. These are known as Little “t” Traumas. Things such as divorce from a partner, or divorced parents, infidelity, consistent infertility, miscarriages, financial concerns, job loss, legal trouble, death of a pet, emotional abuse, a difficult break up, etc. make up these trauma experiences.
In no way is the intention of these labels to dismiss the significance of these events in your life. Little “t” Traumas are in no way less impactful than Big “T” Traumas, as they can occur more often, and yet are not acknowledged as traumatic. As previously mentioned, Big “T” Traumas are widely known as traumatic events and therefore give people permission to seek help, however, it is just as important to seek healing through the Little “t” Traumas as well.
Below are some types of trauma therapy approaches that address both the Big “T” and Little “t” Traumas you or a loved one may have experienced. These are not a one size fits all treatment, and some are better for certain traumatic experiences than others.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a commonly known approach to treating trauma. It involves the client focusing and processing traumatic events while being visually stimulated bilaterally. The inclusion of visual, or sometimes other means of bilateral stimulation, helps the client move through the events of the trauma and bring in more positive and accepting beliefs with a decrease in emotional response to triggers.
Internal Family Systems work seeks to heal trauma by integrating wounded “parts” to become whole. It explores distinct parts, known as exiles, managers, and firefighters, and how emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are then dictated by these parts, often leading to pain and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Meanwhile, the core self can allow these parts to heal and find harmony. This theory is complex but has been beneficial for several clients’ paths to healing.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy involves regulating the distressing emotions often caused by traumatic events or beliefs. This therapy is helpful for those struggling with suicidal thoughts. It also helps to instill healthier habits and behaviors for coping.
Attachment trauma occurs in infancy when connection and safety is not achieved between infant and caregiver. This often leads to abnormal associations. These abnormal associations can occur in emotional, motor vestibular, and physiological state memories, creating triggers later in life often manifesting as a fear or mistrust of interpersonal closeness. Working through these attachment fears can promote not only growth and healing for the client, but also for their relationships.
While technically not often a theory used to treat trauma, family systems work can provide some clarity and helpful information into the patterns of unhealthy issues. Many people have wounds and trauma from family members, and do not realize this may be generational, and impacting health and relationships in the present. Identifying these patterns allows the client to make intentional efforts to heal and change rather than repeating the cycle.
Brainspotting helps with the identification of trauma, pain, and negative emotions that have gone unprocessed in the brain; also, through visual means, but in a different manner than EMDR. There is evidence to support that trauma remains stored in the body and Brainspotting helps to initiate the body’s natural healing process.
This theory regards re-patterning the nervous systems, building capacities for regulation, and creating independent pathways of safety and connection. By becoming intimately aware of the autonomic nervous system and the needs of it, the client learns how to manage stress and perceived danger from past trauma and create safety in the body and mind in the present.
Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is often used for children and adolescents that have experienced significant trauma and are experiencing emotional distress as a result. The approach helps the client address any distorted beliefs and turn them into new, acceptable beliefs that will help with coping. This theory is useful in teaching or coaching parents as well, so long as they are not associated with the traumatization of the client.
These are a few evidence based trauma therapy modalities, with a brief overview of what they entail. Each of these theories have much more complexities to them and help a variety of people. Consulting with a mental health therapist may help determine which course of treatment would be best for you or your loved one. Many of the therapists at SureHope have experience working in one or more of these modalities, as well as with integrating Christian counseling if desired. Please reach out if you would like more information or a consultation, we would be happy to assist you.
Callie Gross, MA, LMFTA – https://surehopecounseling.com/callie-gross-adolescent-therapy/